Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sorry for not posting sooner, but I'm afraid I'm suffering from an embarrassment of riches; there's just SO much to talk about I couldn't settle on something. So, to kick things off, I'll talk a bit about a new project machine I'm experimenting with, the Poiwerbook 3400c.

Released in Feb. 1997 it was the fastest notebook computer then available and brought a host of new innovations to the table. Leaving NUBUS board architecture behind, it used Intel's new PCI design and was the first Powerboard to be Cardbus compliant (though this seems to have been unintentional). Coming in three speeds (180, 200, and 240 MHz CPUs), it sported a nice 12" active matrix screen and 4 speakers (and while hardly a Dolby Stereo experience, the sound is fairly impressive for a notebook). It used a proprietary RAM module (similar to the 190/5300 series, but not cross compatible) that could boost the 3400c to a mind boggling (for 1997) 144mgs of physical RAM! Sadly, it's time as the most awesome laptop on Earth was shortlived as Motorola's 750 G3 CPU hit the market, and Apple waited no time (or real thought) in cramming it into the 3400c case, creating the equally shortlived 3500c "Kanga" (more on that another time).

All right, enough histrionics, down to brass tacks. The 3400 is a PB 5300 on steroids. Bigger and beefier in every sense of the word, it's a lot what of what the 5300 should have been with in the first place. Sharing a hot swappable drive bay (and some case plastics) with it's predecessor, this gives you a great head start on tricking this beast out. To my knowledge, here's everything available for the 190/5300/3400 drive bay;

VST Power Adaptor
VST ZIP 100 drive
VST Hard Drive Module
VST 230mg Magneto Optical drive
PC Card holder
Floppy Drive Module
12X CD Drive
20X CD Drive

The VST Power Adaptor was originally for the Powerbook 5300 (who's native plug was VERY prone to breaking) and in the 3400 is a good travel option if you're not inclined to haul around the 45 watt Power Brick and cord. The Hard Drive Modules usually came with a 1 or 2 gig drive installed, but could be opened (with some effort) and upgraded with any standard IDE/ATA laptop hard drive. Of the things listed, the Magneto Optical drive is the rarest, and it took me 8 years to finally track one down. Very old school as storage media goes, but useful.

Getting into a 3400 to do some upgrades is likewise commendably painless, though you'll need a Torx 8 screw driver for the task. Remove AC power and the battery, flip the 3400 face down. Remove the 3 long screws in the bottom, releasing the keyboard. Rightside up again, you now have access to the RAM module, or you can gentle pry up the trackpd unit to access the hard drive carriage. Three more silver screws hold the drive in place, and when removed you can lift out the carraige, being mindful of the ribbon cable connecting the drive to the motherboard. Now you can change out the hard drive if you like.

I've always been fond of the 3400c, it being my first "real" powerbook that I could get stuff done on, being pretty close to the Mac desktops of the day. Not quite as easy to tote as the 5300 series, it nonetheless still has some fight left in it. You'll be limited to nothing higher than OS 9.1, but that's not the worst thing in the world. If you're looking to pick one up, obviously you'll want to shoot for the highest CPU speed, and as much RAM as possible, RAM DOUBLER likewise being a good idea (though if you have 144mgs of physical RAM, RD will only take you to 240mgs). The 3400c's intelligent batteries are a BIG step up from the 5300 series and I've had amazing luck find good batteries. Being Cardbus complient ( see --> for details) you have options for USB and WiFi cards (I've had pretty good luck with both).

My current experiment involves getting a Compact Flash to ATA interface card, and replacing my hard drive with an 8gig CF card. So far, so good. OS 9.1 loads noticeably quicker and of course quieter, so I'm hopeful for the future. I'm specifically setting this up with Photoshop 4, Flash 5, Bryce 3D 4, Pagemaker 6.5, and Streamline 4. I'll keep you posted!

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